Under Review: Wonder Woman


Courtesy Image

“Wonder Woman” breaks DC extended universe conventions for a fresh look at the traditional superhero.

Ryan Chang, Assistant Online Editor

I did not have high hopes for the fourth entry in the DC Cinematic Universe. Though I was one of the rare few who enjoyed the mindless destruction and gritty tone of  “Man of Steel” (2013), Batman v. Superman (2016) fell far short of my expectations, while “Suicide Squad” (2016) ranks as one of my least favorite films of all time. I feared that “Wonder Woman” would suffer from the convoluted plotting and needlessly dark and gritty atmosphere of its predecessors, and that the DCEU would never be able to catch up to is rival, Marvel. Thankfully, “Wonder Woman” not only shattered my doubts and fears, but leapt far above many of the best comic book films I’ve ever seen.

The film serves as an origin story for the titular heroine, Diana (Gal Gadot), who first appeared in “Batman v. Superman”. After an English pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the Amazon-ruled island of Themyscira, Diana embarks on a mission to end World War I by killing the god of war, Ares (David Thewlis).

The opening scene of the film immediately separates it from previous entries in the DC Cinematic Universe. The island of Themyscira is absolutely gorgeous, with vibrant lighting and impressive architecture, providing a welcome contrast to the grimy, rubble-filled city streets of Gotham City and Metropolis. However, the film does not shy away from darkness and gloom. Diana experiences the horrors of war firsthand as she journeys across war-torn Europe, whether it be in the form of maimed, wounded soldiers or ruined villages.

Of course, a comic book film would be quite underwhelming without good action, and “Wonder Woman” delivers some appropriately badass action sequences. Diana, dressed in the iconic red and blue armor from the comics, leaps across the no man’s land without hesitation, determined to save a ruined village from German occupation. Deflecting bullets and cutting down German soldiers with ease, Diana carries an aura of power and grace befitting a trained Amazon warrior. Though the final confrontation with Ares is a par-for-the-course CGI whirlwind of metal, light, and explosions, it still serves as an engaging finale.

Gal Gadot does a magnificent job of portraying Wonder Woman. The “wonder” Diana feels at the quirks and customs of the human world makes for some humorous moments, while her shock at the horrors of World War I and the evils of humanity are palpable. Though inexperienced and out of her element, Diana is one of the most genuinely good heroes in modern comic book movies. Her entire motivation for leaving Themyscira is to fulfill the Amazons’ duty of defeating Ares, which she believes will bring an end to all wars. While some would describe this personality as two-dimensional or boring, it perfectly captures the spirit of the comic book Wonder Woman, who stands as a symbol of truth and justice. One of the major criticisms of Henry Cavill’s Superman in “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman” is the character’s much darker, brooding personality that clashes with the all-American, morally just symbol of good that most associate with Superman (the wanton destruction of Metropolis and neck-snapping of Zod weren’t the most heroic things we’ve seen Clark Kent do); Wonder Woman provides a refreshing break from this trend.

Admittedly, the film is not perfect. The aforementioned confrontation with Ares, while adequate as a finale, lacks creativity and originality, as two animated gods ram into each other amidst blinding flashes and explosions. Aside from Diana and Steve Trevor, the other members of Trevor’s merry band remain undeveloped throughout the film and add almost nothing to the film as a whole. In comparison to the incredible charisma of Gadot and Pine, coupled with the film’s otherwise exciting action sequences, these are very minor complaints.

Ultimately, “Wonder Woman” succeeds in capturing the essence of heroism and empathy that have been sorely lacking in the previous three DC films, where the protagonists are either torturing and murdering criminals or snapping the necks of their adversaries. “Wonder Woman” does not tell the story of a tortured vigilante, a battle-scarred loner with a violent past, or a group of criminals looking to do some good. “Wonder Woman” ditches the brooding, edgy, gloomy atmosphere that has plagued many recent superhero films to tell the story of a hero, and I love it for that.

Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 141 minutes.